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Laguna Beach violent and property crimes are down this year, police say

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Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella joins officers in a salute for the national anthem during a remembrance ceremony in September for fallen officers.
(File Photo)

Virtually all types of violent and property crimes are down for the second year in a row in Laguna Beach, according to a Police Department report released this week.

The statistics, based on reports through Nov. 30, say overall violent crimes — including sexual assault, robbery and aggravated and simple assaults — are down 9% so far this year compared with all of 2017. The six robberies reported are down from 13 last year. Reports of aggravated assaults, which include domestic violence and bar fights, fell from 21 to 16. Simple assaults, which the department says also are driven by domestic violence, dropped from 149 to 145.

Laguna Beach has had no reported homicides since 2012.

Last year, violent crimes dropped 21% compared with 2016, the department said.

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Overall property crimes — including burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson — are down 25% from 2017, according to the report. They dropped 15% last year compared with 2016.

The most significant decreases this year are in burglaries and thefts. Reports of burglaries fell by more than half — from 90 in 2017 to 40 — after two years of increases. A few “burglary crews” were arrested, helping to account for the decrease, the department said.

Capt. Jason Kravetz added that police assigned more officers to patrol areas that had been targeted in recent years and that their presence may deter would-be burglars.

Larceny — thefts not including cars — fell from 358 in 2017 to 293. The report says thefts on the beach and shoplifting have dropped this year.

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Auto thefts declined from 30 last year to 23, according to the report.

The only type of crime that posted an increase was arson, which went from one case in 2017 to two this year.

This week’s report credits the decrease in thefts to the presence of beach patrol officers, who mostly enforce rules about smoking, alcohol and littering at Main Beach and Heisler Park. Kravetz also credited more education from the police force, saying the department put up signs advising people to lock their cars and not leave their items unattended at the beach.

The City Council voted unanimously Dec. 11 to allocate $155,000 for the remaining six months of the fiscal year to increase beach patrol hours and fund a stronger police presence at Main Beach and Heisler Park, among other security measures. In July, Laguna police began staffing an information booth on weekends at Main Beach Park to address public safety issues.

Police Chief Laura Farinella said at the council meeting this month that she had received positive reports about “the feeling of safety” the booth provided.

Police said a full crime statistics report for 2018 likely will be released in January. The information released this week was intended to counter misinformed statistics circulating on the internet, said Cassie Walder, Laguna Beach community information officer.

The Police Department also released data last month showing violent crimes and property crimes down since 2016.

But council members Steve Dicterow and Peter Blake, who proposed the beach patrol increase and spoke of making stronger security proposals next year, said statistics don’t help if people don’t feel safe.

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“What’s an acceptable level of crime?” Dicterow said at the Dec. 11 meeting. “I can tell you that whatever our numbers are today, that number is not acceptable to me. … It’s not merely ways of measuring — subjective perception matters.”

Blake said he refuses “to feel unsafe in Laguna Beach.”

“I don’t care what it costs to make sure I never feel unsafe,” he said.

faith.pinho@latimes.com

Twitter: @faithepinho


UPDATES:

This article was originally published at 2:25 p.m. and was later updated with additional information.


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